It can be eerily quiet or obnoxiously loud. A stampede of elephant stomps quickly turns to silent ninja stealth as they creep and crawl their way to the kitchen, hiding behind walls and furniture. Of course I know. Of course I see. But to acknowledge their presence prematurely would result in total devastation and crushed souls. So I wait for it while continuing to wash the dishes.
A loaded nerf gun peaks around the corner. I hear their whispers and giggles. Then the countdown commences. “12345678910, go, and bah bah bah BAH, and ready set GO!” Jumping around the corner they race towards me, armed to the teeth with nerf guns and empty water pistols. “SURPRISE ATTAAAAAAACK!!!” they shout together in boyish delight, melting into puddles of laughter as I turn and scream, feigning a look of total shock, then rush in to tickle them silly.
Aaaaand repeat. Again. And again. And again.
Then there are the bugs. So many bugs. We currently have an entire jar of cicada molts and one dead cicada sitting on our dining room table. My oldest son likes to hold the jar and shake it while we eat. Also on our dining room table is a large container of mud. I don’t even know why. It’s been there so long I can’t remember the reason. And a shell from a local stream, a handful of acorns, a magnifying glass and one stray marble. I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention the container of sand and construction vehicles sitting next to the squeaky giraffe toy, across from the latest Lego creation. And that’s only half of it. We have a large table. Yay.
I love the term “brobarian.” It comes from the children’s book Brobarians by Lindsay Ward, and is a fitting description of my sons. The dirty hands, muddy shoes, paint splatters, sandy (broken) furniture, every single pair of pants with holes in the knees, marked up walls… it all points to their insatiable desire for adventure and experience. At this very moment, both boys are shirtless. One is outside in the backyard playing in a patch of dirt with monster trucks and the other is sitting at my feet cutting paper into tiny squares (“doors,” as he called them just now), for reasons only he knows. Still, I encourage it- even suggest that he get out a glue stick and create something with the paper pieces. So he does, and he is proud of it- double and triple checking to make sure that I am also proud of it.
Boys need affirmation and lots of it. I deeply value the tenderness of my sons’ hearts and do everything I can to foster it. They need to know I’m watching, that I’m listening, that I think their creations and ninja moves and songs are always spectacular and wonderful. They need to hear my encouragement and know that I care. They receive plenty of correction, too, because these feral children still need boundaries, so of course a balance must exist. But in order to fill their tender hearts, they need my attentive presence and eyes and ears. They need to believe that what they are doing matters. Isn’t that true for all of us?
I’ll tell you that’s not always easy, though. Sometimes I feel like I live in a land of broken records and I lose my mind. Their constant questions and demands for me to watch and listen to every little thing have sent me to the moon a time or two… or thousand. “YES, I will watch you drink your milk while shaking your head AGAIN, just like I do at EVERY SINGLE MEAL.” “YES, I am listening to your rendition of the ABC song for the 8th time in a row!” “YES, you’ve already showed me this picture four times in the last minute, but I will tell you AGAIN how creative it is.” There have been a number of moments when I just can’t take it anymore and flat out say no, I’m not going to watch or listen right now. And when boy number three makes his appearance in November and my attention becomes much more divided, the competition is only going to escalate. Wheeeee!!
I still wouldn’t trade it for anything, though. These two are a precious combination of sweet hearts and dirty faces, cackling laughter and whispered shenanigans, angry yelling and quiet words of comfort. They care about each other. They fight with each other. They hold hands and they push away. They joyfully share and sneakily snatch. I absolutely love bearing witness to their budding relationship. It is, in all likelihood, my most favorite thing to watch. And I am undeniably grateful for the gift.
But because of the boyish craziness it’s chaos at best around here. Truthfully, I prefer it that way, though. As irritating as it can be to live in a constant state of messiness, it reminds me that my children are exploring, active, taking risks, learning, and living. At four and a half and two and a half years old, they have finally figured out that playing with each other can be especially fun. So they do… to the detriment of our upstairs floor.
And the discoveries! Oh the things I unexpectedly find! I just went looking for the shirt of my youngest shirtless son and found my husband’s closet jam packed with a large dump truck, big wheel bike, and tricycle. If you’re wondering why those things are inside and not outside, well… me too. Other findings have included poop droppings on the floor, circles drawn in permanent marker on the wall, sopping wet towels (Water maybe? Who knows.), large holes in the drywall, a butcher knife in the guest bedroom upstairs (Lord, help me.), arms and faces covered in paint, and rearranged furniture… just to name a few.
Life with children is unpredictable in general. I have had to learn to let go of micromanaging and controlling every little thing in order to keep at least half my sanity. I maintain the basic routine and structure of our day, but everything in between that I used to try and contain, direct, or suppress is now slowly turning into time led by them. I allow them the freedom to roam around and choose what to do. I won’t always participate, but I let activities happen that I used to try and steer clear of. Messiness doesn’t scare me anymore. And goodness, there is so much freedom in that!
Another thing I find amusing is their need to show off all their cuts and scrapes. Put them on display. Highlight them constantly. Remind me they are there every ten minutes or so. Perhaps fake a slight limp, even if the scrape is on their hand. They love my attention. Did I mention that already? The size of their crocodile tears could fill an ocean. But once the Band-Aids have been applied and a sufficient amount of hugs have been shared, they impatiently slide out of my arms and run off to their next adventure, proudly displaying their battle scars to the other brother.
I won’t pretend to understand why they laugh while hitting each other in the back of the head with soccer balls, and I no longer flinch when the ceiling shakes after an enormous crash from upstairs. The tiny Legos have made their entrance into our home and I have promised to only curse at their existence when my children aren’t listening. Their enjoyment of nature and fascination with all there is to explore delights me to no end. The ridiculous arguing over toys that neither actually want but are just fighting over for the sake of winning causes me to pull my hair out one strand at a time. But I will take it all- all the beautiful, frustrating, heart wrenching, glorious, dirty things about boys- and embrace them because to do so is to release them to fully be themselves and live into God’s intended design for them.
I find incredible joy in the wildness of my boys, in allowing them to try and fail (then sometimes succeed, and other times not), giving them the space to test their physical limits, teaching them to respect each other and watching it in action, cultivating compassion and awareness of their actions and words… but guys, it’s so much work. Monotonous, daily, repetitious reminders and conversations, discipline and consequences, praise and encouragement. Every day. Every day. Every day. It’s exhausting. I won’t sit here and try to convince you that we live in eternal sunshine. If you’ve read my previous posts, you know already “perfect” will never be a word that describes me, my family, or my home. We fail a lot, our house bearing many of the telltale signs of those moments.
But I love this prayer penned by General Douglas MacArthur for his son. It is my heart’s cry that the way of my young brobarians will lead down a path devoted to love and service to Jesus and the world around them.
“Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid; one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory.
Build me a son whose wishes will not take the place of deeds; a son who will know Thee—and that to know himself is the foundation stone of knowledge.
Lead him, I pray, not in the path of ease and comfort, but under the stress and spur of difficulties and challenge. Here let him learn to stand up in the storm; here let him learn compassion for those who fail.
Build me a son whose heart will be clear, whose goal will be high; a son who will master himself before he seeks to master other men; one who will reach into the future, yet never forget the past.
And after all these things are his, add, I pray, enough of a sense of humor, so that he may always be serious, yet never take himself too seriously. Give him humility, so that he may always remember the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, and the weakness of true strength.”
Then I, his father [his mother] will dare to whisper, “I have not lived in vain.”
I don’t petition God for grandiose things to become of my sons. I don’t need a pro athlete or world-renowned doctor. I would be proud of a mechanic or factory worker. What I desire and pray for is simply that they act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with Him; that they be filled with kindness and compassion, and live honest, transparent, courageous lives so that the light of Christ may shine brilliantly through them and draw others into the grace and forgiveness that Jesus freely offers.
I also pray that God shores up the cracks in my mom heart to prepare it for the road ahead. So far it’s looking to be quite the journey…
Peace & Love, Amy
(If you have a story that you’d like to share about your own brobarians, feel free to leave a comment! I love hearing about other crazy boy-mom experiences!)